the two levels of fact and of meaning

August 8, 2017
Amazing Atlantic Piece, How America Lost Its Mind.

I've always liked postmodern-style of thinking, but now I'm wondering how damaging it may have been.

Here's the problem: there are two levels of knowing. There's objective facts - not perfectly knowable, but close enough for many, many purposes. This is the lower level where science lives. Then there's the interpretation of those facts, and the search for meaning. That's where philosophy and religion lives, on top of that. That's where "should" and "purpose" come from and where we have to construct our moral discernment.

These two layers have been squashed together. In America, I blame fundamentalism. For a while, during the times of the Enlightenment, after the Scientific Revolution, Christian belief hitched its wagon to scientific finding. Those two layers seemed compatible. But as the base level started to pull away from simplistic, literal readings of the holy texts on the layer above it, fundamentalism doubled down, and started letting the upper level of meaning leach down and bleach out the level of simple facts. Or I guess we could say: before that time, the layer of facts was relatively flatter - there was less proof of it, fewer spikes, less ways where the obscure science facts mattered in day to day life. But it got spikier, and rather than moving on up, fundamentalist belief keeps trying to wash the spikes out. Hence, museums with Noah hanging out with dinosaurs and crap like that.

I feel - and I may be misleading myself - I'm better than average at separating those levels. Or maybe I just emphasize the lower level too much. The weird side effect is I'm kind of less judge-y than most people I know (except on epistemological matters, i.e. the study of those two levels, where I can be either judge-y or condescending as hell). But when it comes to things of life style? I really don't judge, except final results. If it's "working for you", great! I only have the right to judge whatever you want once I have empirical evidence that yeah, you've made choices that have led to results that could objectively be read as suboptimal by most reasonable interpretations. (I do feel I have a very strong submission to that lower level of basic facts, to the extent that I will rarely state even the evidence of my own sense without a protective "I think..." or "it seems like..." It's partially a form of egoism - heaven or something forfend I ever be subject to being wrong! )

I do think if people made a clearer divide between those two levels, the world would be a better place. "FAKE NEWS" should be even more of a thing than it is.
The biggest problem of fundamentalism is that it says "our simplified model of the universe is sufficient, and if you have any further questions you should dig deeper into the model". At least science (which might not be free of its own type of fundies, but still) encourages people to look out in the objective world to make the model better.
"The cat is trying to open the door on the hinge side. I laugh, then realize that I make the same mistake with people, ideas, and doors, too."
--New Yorker cartoon (circa 1997)
A rather thorough look into what's wrong with "Ready Player One". As always if you want a great sci-fi read with a tinge of 80s/90s era videogamery (in the most alien way possible) try Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson
Hubris (n) 1.excessive pride or self-confidence. 2. (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.